(... use the pull down menu "The Future Of:" to access economics, health, technology, etc.)
In December 2016, the US President-elect will receive Global Trends 2035, the sixth edition in the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) series aimed at providing a framework for thinking about the future. Global Trends shapes strategic conversations within and beyond the US Government.
The report, which is completely unclassified, also is publicly released, aiding policymakers, scholars, and others in many countries in better understanding possible trends and discontinuities in the global environment.
The Future of: Environment & Natural Resources
OVERVIEWFood, Water, Energy, Minerals, and Climate Change – the next 20 years will be marked by episodic shortages and price volatility for some commodities. Extreme weather, atmospheric shifts, and public policies that affect food and water supplies will probably create or exacerbate humanitarian crises and instability risks. The consequences of climate change—especially a rapid increase in extreme weather events—remain a major future uncertainty.
A Five-Year OutlookFood challenges will continue to be driven by local availability—a function of both affordability and/or physical supply. Multiple food commodity price shocks can be expected if extreme weather or disease patterns significantly degrade production in multiple areas of the world around the same time.
The global fresh water supply is finite and present consumptive use of water for food, industry, sanitation, and power generation is not sustainable. Water use among riparian states will increasingly be contentious without political action to develop equitable means to share and distribute water.
Rapid increases in unconventional oil production in Canada and the United States, and the partial resumption of some previously sidelined output have helped drive down oil prices. If oil and gas prices remain low, they will give a boost to the global economy, with benefits enjoyed by importers more than outweighing the costs to exporters.
Like water, mineral resources—iron, aluminum, copper, rare earths, etc.—are finite, but available in the next five years to meet demand.
Globally averaged surface temperature has risen approximately 0.6 degrees centigrade from 1951 to 2012; 2014 was warmest year on earth since recordkeeping began. This rise in temperature has probably caused an increase in the intensity and/or frequency of both heavy precipitation and dry spells and has changed the spread of certain diseases. These trends are expected to continue over the next five years.
A 20-Year OutlookThe planet has the capacity to feed the expected population of 8.6 billion in 2035. Increased food production in Africa, and to a lesser extent South America, will be critical to meeting the global demand. Improved food technology—especially genetic engineering, aquaculture, hydroponics, and soil management—will be required to meet local and global demand.
Improved water management and the application of new and existing technologies will be required to avoid water waste. New technology could further water use for agriculture and increase the use of desalinization to provide water for direct human consumption and sanitation.
Technology that now enables extraction of fossil resources (e.g. gas, oil, natural gas liquids) from shale deposits has assured their availability for the next 20 years. (... just don't ask about price or EROEI) However, the continued demand for fossil resources is highly dependent upon energy technology development and deployment and potential concerns over future climate change.
The combination of new mineral extraction and recycling of existing mineral material can support the present rate of global economic development for the next 20 years. However, for some minerals there may be periods of shortages with resulting price volatility. If prices begin to rise for certain materials, technology development and deployment of alternatives are also likely to increase (see Technology discussion).
Based upon current rates of CO2 emissions the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has high confidence that by mid-century global average temperature will rise more than 2 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial level with large temporal variations across the planet.
The IPCC reports that it is extremely likely that more than half of the temperature rise seen in the last 50 years is due to human-induced changes to the atmosphere. This rise in temperature has likely caused an increase in the intensity and/or frequency of a number of extreme weather events and changes in disease patterns.
However, it remains scientifically challenging to disentangle human induced weather variability from natural variability for some types of extreme weather events. Political and social instability aggravates weather/climate risk because much of the technical infrastructure necessary to warn of floods, droughts, and extreme weather can be destroyed or made unavailable in disputed territory. (... like in Australia)
Assumptions• Expected global population growth and economic development will place increasing pressures on food and energy production, and finite water and mineral resources.
• The present rate of global economic development can be supported by the combination of new mineral extractions and recycling of existing mineral resources. (... are they fucking crazy)
• The global average temperature is on an unstoppable path to rise in excess of 2 degrees centigrade by midcentury.
Key Uncertainties• How will future global energy demand be met; specifically will fossil fuels be replaced by other energy sources?
• Will climate change cause a significant increase in extreme weather events that threatens populations and economically significant infrastructure?
• As developing countries clean their industrial process and remove polluting agents—which suppress global warming—will there be a rapid rise in average global temperature? (see http://robertscribbler.com/2014/03/05/a ... -480-co2e/ )
The Future of: Economics
The Future of: War
A 20 Year OutlookOver the long term, warfare is likely to increasingly involve non-military means, stand-off engagements, and threats to critical infrastructure as developments in cyber and information systems, precision-guided weapons, drones, and long-range strike systems continue to develop and proliferate.• For states with advanced militaries, the development of long-range precision strike weapons, robotic and autonomous systems, and information warfare capabilities will shift warfare from direct clashes of opposing armies to more standoff, remote operations. The potential for these conflicts to escalate to nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will remain and may increase.
• Where opposing ground forces do engage, the proliferation of weapons and technologies—such as precision-guided mortars, rockets, missiles and unmanned systems—will enhance the capabilities of states and non-state groups to impose costs on stronger adversaries.
• Opponents in future wars will increasingly be able to impose costs on one another making resilience and the ability to control escalation key attributes in future conflicts.
The increasing costs of military conflict are likely to lead to more frequent employment of nonmilitary or “soft warfare” means—such as covert cyber attacks, psychological operations, proxies, terrorism, and subversive activities, blurring the line dividing “peacetime” and “wartime” operations. (... go ask George Orwell)
This type of warfare is likely to place increased emphasis on disrupting critical infrastructure, societal cohesion, government functions, and leadership decision-making compared to destroying enemy forces on the battlefield and seizing territory through conventional military means.• The potential for use of biological agents as a weapon of societal disruption and terror will increase as the costs decline, DNA sequencing and synthesis improves, and the technology become more accessible on a global basis.
The Future of: Technology
A Five- Year OutlookThe technical ability to enhance human beings—while not widely deployed—will advance to the point that governments will face significant policy choices. Initial deployment of the technologies will be to correct or prevent disease or deficiencies. However, how these technologies are deployed will have social ramifications, especially if the deployment is limited to elites who can afford it, and the enhancements improve quality of life and lifetime economic potential. (... see also: Elysium)
Considerable research and development will be devoted to information, robotic, and artificial intelligence technologies, putting pressure on labor markets as robots and machines continue to replace some human manufacturing tasks and service labor.
Urban areas will grow rapidly in population often before support infrastructure—water, health, food, shelter—is adequately developed. The dense concentrations of humans without adequate support infrastructure will further motivate citizens—enabled with new more robust forms of social media—to mobilize against their governments, international institutions, or private corporations. (Revolution?/Repression?)
The Future of: Health
• Antimicrobial drug resistant (AMR) pathogens are currently on track to continue increasing both in number and in geographic scope, worsening health outcomes, straining public health budgets, and potentially reversing hard-fought gains in reducing the infectious disease burden.
• Given that no one can predict which pathogen will be the next to spread from animals to humans or when an existing human virus will take a more virulent form, the world will remain vulnerable to pandemic disease. For example, if a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus like H7N9 were to become easily transmissible among humans, the outcome could be far more disruptive than the great influenza pandemic of 1918.